Robert McQueen, Lord Braxfield

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Robert McQueen, Lord Braxfield (4 May 1722 – 30 May 1799) was a Scottish advocate and judge.

Lord Braxfield
Lord Braxfield
Lord Justice Clerk
In office
13 December 1776 – 30 May 1799
Personal details
Born(1722-05-04)4 May 1722
Died30 May 1799(1799-05-30) (aged 77)
George Square, Edinburgh
Spouse(s)Mary Agnew; Elizabeth Ord
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh


McQueen was born at Braxfield House near Lanark on 4 May 1722, son of John McQueen.

He studied Law at Edinburgh University and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1744. In 1759 he was appointed an Advocate Depute appearing for the Crown in prosecutions. He often appeared in more than 15 cases per day and earned £1900 in a single year.[1]

He became a judge in 1776 and took the title Lord Braxfield.

In 1788 he became Lord Justice Clerk, the leading judge in Scotland. Explicitly taking the view that "Government in this country is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to be represented" he took an active role in the suppression of the Friends of the People Society in the trials and sentences passed on Thomas Muir and others. To accomplish this he "invented a crime of unconscious sedition".[2] A famous quote of his in this respect was "Let them bring me prisoners, and I will find them law."

In 1795 he oversaw the trial and imprisonment of Sir Archibald Gordon Kinloch of Gilmerton for the murder of his half-brother Sir Francis Kinloch. This rare event saw one man kill another at least in part to inherit his baronetcy.[3]

He died at home[4] in George Square, Edinburgh, on 30 May 1799, aged 77, and was buried in the family vault at Lanark on 5 June.[5]

Braxfield House was later the home of Robert Owen and New Lanark was built nearby.[6]


He married, firstly, Mary Agnew, daughter of Major James Agnew of the 7th Dragoon Guards, and niece of Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw, Wigtownshire, bart. They had four children:

  • Robert Dundas, who died on 5 August 1816,
  • John, captain in the 28th regiment of foot, who died on 2 February 1837,
  • Mary, who married in 1777 Sir William Honyman, Lord Armadale,
  • Katherine, who married John Macdonald, chief of Clanranald, in 1786.

Lord Braxfield married secondly, Elizabeth Ord, daughter of Robert Ord, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer for Scotland. They had no further children.[5]


Sir Henry Raeburn painted his portrait shortly before his death.

Braxfield has a notoriety in Scotland, due to the harsh way that he dealt with those who appeared before him, most famously in telling a defendant that "Ye're a vera clever chiel, man, but ye wad be nane the waur o' a hanging". In a recent survey of Scottish historians, Braxfield was identified as one of the "vilest villains" in Scotland's history.[7]

He is thought to be the model for the judge in Robert Louis Stevenson's unfinished novel Weir of Hermiston.[8]

Braxfield Row in New Lanark his named after his estate.


  1. ^ Milne, Hugh M. (ed) (2001). Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1768. Mercat Press. p. 560. ISBN 1-84183-020-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Buchan, James (2003). Crowded with Genius. Harper Collins. pp. 338. ISBN 0-06-055888-1.
  3. ^ The Trial of Sir Archibald Gordon Kinloch for the Murder of Sir Francis Kinloch his Brother-German, 1795
  4. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1799
  5. ^ a b Barker 1893.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Meet our 12 worst baddies - Scotland depraved". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 19 January 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Lord Robert Macqueen Braxfield". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 19 January 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBarker, George Fisher Russell (1893). "Macqueen, Robert". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 35. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas Miller
Lord Justice Clerk
13 December 1776 – 30 May 1799
Succeeded by
David Rae